Babies Born to Cocaine Addicted Mothers

Cocaine AddictionWhile for most women the idea of using an illicit drug such as cocaine during pregnancy seems out of the question, there are some who are so heavily addicted that they cannot stop themselves from using no matter the consequences of their actions. Cocaine use during pregnancy can affect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby in many ways. During the early months of pregnancy, it may increase the risk of miscarriage. When the drug is used late in pregnancy, it may trigger premature labor. It also may cause an unborn baby to die or to have a stroke, which can result in irreversible brain damage.

Babies exposed to cocaine before they are born might start life with serious health problems. Babies of women who use cocaine regularly during pregnancy are between three and six times more likely to be born at a low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds) than babies of women who do not use the drug. Low birth weight can result from poor growth before birth, premature birth or a combination of both. Low-birth weight babies born to cocaine addicted mothers are much more likely to die in their first month than normal-weight babies. Those who survive are at increased risk of lifelong disabilities including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairment.

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Nola’s Son Overcame his Crack Cocaine Addiction at Narconon Fresh Start

Learn more about cocaine abuse and how you can help a loved one overcome cocaine addiction.

Several studies also indicate that even when a mother reports she is not using drugs, a urine screen may indicate otherwise. In one of these studies, 26% of pregnant women who tested positive for cocaine denied using it. More reliable methods for detecting cocaine exposure involve testing the newborn’s hair or meconium (the infant’s earliest stool). Hair analysis, however, can give false positives for cocaine exposure. In New York City, the great majority of infants coming into foster care are born to women who abused cocaine or “crack” during pregnancy.

While babies born to cocaine addicted mothers may show little to no withdrawal symptoms when born, they have their fair share of issues to overcome. The first being a lower Apgar score. The Apgar score is a simple method of quickly assessing the overall health of a newborn baby immediately after birth. The five areas examined include appearance/complexion, pulse rate, reflex irritability, activity and respiration effort. There is evidence that the use of cocaine shortly before birth can be associated with cerebral infarction (stroke) which damages the brain of the newborn. A CT scan of the brain may be indicated when both the infant and mother test highly positive for cocaine at the time of birth and when there are additional indications to suggest a stroke might have occurred. There is also a greater incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In one sample of babies born to cocaine dependent mothers, 15% of the infants died of SIDS – more than triple that of heroin or methadone exposed infants.

Download Cocaine Abuse Brochure

After years of research on the long-term effects of cocaine and crack cocaine use during pregnancy the results are in. It was expected that these babies would be brain-damaged; luckily the predictions were off their mark. The studies on crack addicted newborns and cocaine addicted newborns show that most babies grow up into normal/average children and adolescents. While they are not “brain-damaged” as anticipated there is still a consequence for their mother’s actions, on average babies born to cocaine addicted mothers score about 3 points lower on tests of IQ than non-exposed children. Additionally, it has been found that these exposed children have additional struggles with their language abilities. It has been found that these children will need special education to help them reach their full potential.

Get help with cocaine addiction by calling a Narconon Fresh Start drug rehab specialist at 855-734-2223 today.


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